The Kremlin seems to follow the motto “Repeat a lie a hundred times and it becomes true.” As we have already reported, one of the most persistent narratives propagated by Kremlin-led outlets about the upcoming presidential elections in Ukraine insists on their illegitimacy (see here, here, here, or here). Numerous disinformation messages on TV, in print, and online describe flaws in the electoral process and violations of the procedures that call into question the validity of the election results.
After Kremlin-controlled media sources generated this narrative about the dubiousness of Ukraine’s upcoming elections, the government adopted it as its official line on the matter. On March 4, Prime Minister Medvedev publicized it further during an interview with Trud newspaper ahead of his visit to Bulgaria.
When asked about Russia’s current relations with Ukraine and prospects for their improvement, Medvedev answered that “Russia is certainly eager to improve relations with Ukraine…But now the situation is very difficult. To change it, we both need to move toward the middle. However, Kyiv behaves in such a way that it is difficult to make any predictions.” He then accused Kyiv of staging a “provocation” in the Kerch strait and using Russia as a scapegoat for Ukraine’s internal issues: “Russia is openly used as an issue to distract voters from the government’s failures in domestic policy and the economy, from civilian casualties in The Donbas, and from economic ruin.”
Medvedev continued: “A fierce, dirty election campaign is underway in Ukraine. Observing this, we in Russia do not yet see with whom we could talk in Ukraine…However, it matters whether the victory is fair, whether the election is legitimate and not rigged. Recent events make one suspect the worst. The presidential campaign in that country has featured flagrant violations of generally accepted democratic norms, including those guiding European countries.”
According to Medvedev, two factors may compromise the legitimacy of the upcoming elections. First is the recent decision of the Ukrainian government to close polling stations for its citizens in Russia. As Ukraine’s foreign minister Pavlo Klimkin explained, protecting the security of voters and diplomatic personnel motivated this step. Instead of polling stations in Russia, additional polling stations will be available to voters in Georgia, Kazakhstan, and Finland. We covered this objection when it surfaced back in January.
The second factor mentioned by Medvedev is the Ukrainian decision to ban Russian citizens from monitoring elections in Ukraine. The Verkhovna Rada recently amended the country’s electoral laws, adding a provision that citizens of an “aggressor state” cannot take part in monitoring missions. The Ukrainian parliament declared Russia an aggressor state back in 2015 following the annexation of Crimea and the Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine.